A canon is a structured
hymnused in a number of Eastern Orthodox services. It consists of nine "odes", sometimes called "canticles" or "songs" depending on the translation, based on the Biblical canticles. Most of these are found in the Old Testament, but the final ode is taken from the Magnificatand Song of Zechariahfrom the New Testament. For clarity, this article will use the term "canticle" to refer to the original biblical text, and "ode" to refer to the composed liturgical hymns.
The canon dates from the
7th centuryand was either devised or introduced into the Greek languageby St. Andrew of Crete, whose penitential Great Canon is still used on certain occasions during Great Lent. It was further developed in the 8th centuryby Sts. John of Damascusand [http://orthodoxwiki.org/Cosmas_the_Hymnographer Cosmas of Jerusalem] , and in the 9th centuryby Sts. [http://www.anastasis.org.uk/jo-hym.htm Joseph the Hymnographer] and [http://www.anastasis.org.uk/theophan.htm Theophanes the Branded] .
Over time the canon came to replace the
kontakion, a vestigal form of which is still used on several occasions and which has been incorporated into the performance of the canon. Each canon develops a specific theme, such as repentance or honouring a particular saint. Sometimes more than one canon can be chanted together, as frequently happens at Matins.
The nine biblical canticles are:
# The Ode of
# The Prayer of
Habakkukthe Prophet (Habakkuk )
# The Prayer of the Three Holy Children (Daniel 3:26-56)*
# The Song of the Three Holy Children (The "Benedicite", Daniel 3:57-88)*
# The Song of the
Theotokos(The " Magnificat", Luke
*Rassaphore monk Laurence (1997). "The Unabbreviated Horologion" (2nd ed. 2nd printing with corrections). Jordanville: Holy Trinity Monastery.
*Mother Mary and Ware, Kallistos (Tr.)(1998). "The Festal Menaion" (reprint). South Canaan: St. Tikhon's Seminary Press. ISBN 1-878997-00-9.
*"Psalter According to the Seventy, The" (1987). Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery. ISBN 0-943405-00-9.
* [http://www.monachos.net/library/Andrew_of_Crete%2C_Great_Canon_of_Repentance The Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete]
* [http://www.anastasis.org.uk/PentCan02noted.pdf The Iambic Canon of Pentecost] with notes, an example of a canon giving both original meter and acrostic.
* [http://www.anastasis.org.uk/paschal_canon_with_notes.htm The Paschal Canon] with extensive notes
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